Pure Redux

seeing God

What is purity?  To be pure has a context for someone that is burnt out on an abusive, authoritarian setting as as some kind of an impossible measure to walk in.  The response to that word is to either water down any solid definition of purity and/or to deny that is worth trying for.

But if we feel like we have really missed the mark of being pure, then enough shame could come in that makes one ask, “Why try when I have gone this far away from whatever purity means to me?”  In my case as a social worker, a tool in my tool kit for counseling is seeing where the client sees themselves as “good enough” and where that answer leads them.  From there it can hopefully be good detective work with them of finding where grace can lead them to knowing what it is to have the dirt of their bad choices has come in.  The better the process of this, the more likely they are not going to return to their drug of choice.  That is the hope.

But there is another process that leads to and through purity and it is shown to us by Jesus.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

But the mark of getting to that point is seeing God.  But if one gets to that point, how would they drink in the sight of God?  What would God look like?  To have a good guess of what that step of purity would be like, one should understand that since it is built on the prior beatitudes we have been looking at of Jesus then the prior natures expressed therein bleed into an experience of the purity of God.

So here they are in review.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Starting in simplicity.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Moving on in brokenness and humility before God.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Next moving on in humility before humanity.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Moving on with being receptive and collaborative with God.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”  Forgiving others just as God forgives you.

I would submit that if you feel that you have achieved purity but deny or are indifferent to the necessity of these characteristics above, then purity is not in your life.  Perhaps you have abstained from an impure action, but the Pharisees had some kind of bragging rights on that while they still opposed Jesus.  This is what Paul spoke of for those who “have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof” (2 Timothy 3:5). But for one would leans into those that are above, there is a place to see God and see at least in part how God sees the world and all its brokenness and how wholeness to it can still happen.

Working off even more deeper, here are things one can contemplate in a purity that is rooted in the gospel.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The spiritual richness to be experienced in devotion to Jesus.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Knowing Jesus in the fellowship of His sufferings.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Rightly perceiving an incarnational reflection of Jesus in your greatest enemy, the lowest leper or both.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Rightly perceiving the righteousness of God in Christ and communing of Him directly by His Holy Spirit and particularly in the context of communion.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”  Perceiving rightly where to bless others as such an end in itself that you define it as who you are.

Oh, but darn it!  I forgot to divvy up the rules! I forgot to say how much alcohol is too much.  I forgot to write about the correct political party to vote for.  I forgot to say how one should dress or what books to not read.

But no I did not.  When we are lost by too many daily tangibles and controversies, we lose focus that it comes down to God’s grace in drawing us to purity.  I leave you with an example of the lavers in the time of Moses.  There were exact measurements of so many things in the Tent of Meeting where there was sacrifice and fellowship with God.  But measurements were missing for the lavers that the priests used to wash their hands and feet before their priestly service.  Why? Because God knew that when you get lost on the secondaries of behavior like my silly rant, you lose focus on the power of God’s grace to renew or retain purity in our lives. What is stopping us?

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Mercy In The Time of Ferguson

Ferguson

I have been pondering how to express something about forgiveness for a while.  I hardly think I am a wellspring in myself of ideas on this.  I have heard that forgiveness is the most powerful force in the world.   It is considered a nice virtue by people that may or may not consider themselves spiritual.  I kept thinking I should be able to put something together.

But it didn’t feel right.  Maybe it was because I would be putting something out there that is a beautiful thing with too much intellectual take. Truth expressed without a context is just dust in the wind.

As of this week, Ferguson gives us a context.  The context is outrage.  It is hurt in the heart that is added on to generations of wrongdoing in the sad story of race relations.  For the readers who perceive the lack of indictment as justified, please forget that for a moment and think about how we are all on a journey to walk in grace as we were created to.   The healing begins as one walks in that grace by withholding wrath that we feel entitled  to dispense.

So this brings us to a hill 2,000 years ago when an itinerant rabbi says his piece about extending mercy in place of wrath.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”

Keep in mind, that he was speaking as a Jew among Jews in their land oppressed for a long time by the Romans.  There was room for a big grudge but Jesus never spoke that way.  He called for something better.

For those who are sympathetic to the protesters, think again.  What kind of mercy do you want?  When have you blown it in a small way or big one?  We want to have a clean slate but the sayings of Jesus challenge us to want that for others and especially those who have hurt us the most and the most times.  How often are we supposed to forgive someone that hurts us personally?  Seventy times seven which is really infinity.  As a social worker I am trained to see groups by the system they form themselves into, the story of their lives and the identities they make from it all.  But as one who considers himself a Christ follower, I have to ask both sides, can we do better beginning with the power of forgiveness?

We may not like to forgive others.  But we dislike even more to be unforgiven by others when we seek it in tears.  What have you got to lose besides shame and regret? The ultimate source of mercy is a God who is far above the fray of this life, knows are faults and is there for the mercy to us if we will participate warts and all.  What is stopping us?

The Right Filler Up

Eating Chicken

Someone told me that prayer is as simple as two people embracing and that is how people can know God.  That can be a good start and from there people have been known to dice the word communion into common union.  Two persons, being the first assumption, are in union and have something in common.

Whew! That works…almost.  There is an old proverb from Texas, “Take two cats, tie their tales together and set the knot on fire.  You may have union but you don’t have unity”.  Where the role of communion in unity comes in with the Creator is to have a receptive and collaborative relationship that rests on the esteem or acceptance of the Creator above all persons and things.

With the popular buzz word of spirituality meaning so many things to so many people, I want to focus here about spirituality and how it can be viewed through a lens of Christian righteousness.  This is what acceptance or esteem from the God of the Bible is.  The tale of what theologians call salvation history is one of the slow unveiling of that experience of true unity with the creator is all about.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:5).

So along comes Jesus who lays out these layers of spiritual life and says that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled.  If we are not too careful we may see the this all in a passive voice perspective like the believer does not do anything but be filled.

But this is not Jesus’ intent for several reasons.  First before getting to this verse he talks about those whose hearts are humble before God, have a conversion experience with sorrow and are humble before their neighbor.  The implication is that these steps are needed before one can even discern how much they are in need of God’s will to be complete.

The second implication is back to being receptive and collaborative with God.  Focusing for a moment on how the physical satisfaction of hunger and thirst is satisfied we see the different of eating and drinking.  To eat food is to put teeth on it, chew and break down through stomach acids is to make the sustenance subject to your processes so that it conforms to the body.  To drink is more passive in that liquid assumes the shape of what contains it by flow mechanics.

So it goes in Christian spirituality in that it is responsive process and a flowing process.  To have a right relationship with God is to have a balance of both.

But really this was tied in early Christian thought and onwards to the centrality of the cross of Christ.  This was put together experientially and sacramentally through a corporate experience of receiving Christ and thanking Him at the same time and thus corporately commune.  The Greek word was eucharistia which we know now as the Eucharist where those who commune with Christ receive Him in Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.

To those who read this and have a relationship with Jesus but outside of the Eucharist, I do not want to disparage what you have in experiencing everything you have with God.  My hope for the us is that to the most we all can we “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you (Matthew 6:33).  As anyone goes further in the journey of faith,  take to heart that this righteousness comes from a righteous God who is invested through the sacrifice of the cross into knowing us and making Himself known as the divine initiator of love.

  Jesus was very invested in this and prayed accordingly not the night of betrayal and arrest, Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:25-26).

So really that is the agenda of the gospel.  It is not about being religious members as an end in itself.  It comes down to harmony without the fire.  What is stopping us?

Meek Will Inherit The Earth

Meekness

I heard when I was a teenage that meekness is power held in control.  Most of what to keep ourselves in check.  But if it is for keeping up appearances then it is for the wrong reasons.  If we keep our power in check for only selfish reasons then it is really about something not so noble.  Maybe fear or playing politics.

But when we read a verse like “Blessed are the weak, for they shall inherit the earth”, what should it look like?

A baptist preacher named Martin Luther King Jr had something in mind.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s Rules for Marchers:

1. Meditate daily on the teachings and life of Jesus. As Christians we should always do this

2. Remember always that the nonviolent movement seeks justice and reconciliation, not victory. Jesus came for us all… we wrestle not against principalities and powers

3. Walk and talk in the manner of love; for God is love.

4. Pray daily to be used by God that all men might be free. Jesus sets us free.

5. Sacrifice personal wishes that all men might be free. What good does it do to gain the world yet lose our souls?

6. Observe with both friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy.

7. Seek to perform regular service for others and the world.

8. Refrain from violence in fist, tongue, and heart. We can do a lot of damage to people even by gossiping.

9. Strive to be in good spiritual and bodily health.

10. Follow the directions of the movement and of the captain on demonstrations.

One should note that there is difference in having the attitude of meekness with your fellow man and having humility before God.  God cannot be directly faulted by a system by which we rightfully can hold Him accountable.  However, in this world there is room for expectations to have of someone to measure up to our own patterns on how to act.  Sometimes those expectations are right and sometime they are wrong.

But the funny thing in that verse is that is goes against the basic desires one has.  Inherit the earth?  Not conquer it?

To conquer territory or people is to love people with a false love.  Even to use people due to love of things.  Meekness is drawn to use things as a means to love people.  Ultimately in a later post I want to point out that ones noble suffering for the betterment of society is beautiful way to serve others.

But to inherit is based on the premise that someone owns the earth and has the right and full power to pass to whom He wishes.  Meekness that is spiritually based has a knowing that in putting others above themselves is to know in some way that your holding an animalistic level of power in control ties to respecting His love and authority.  This is at the expense of not being full of ourselves.  Sounds like being free at last to me.

When Mourning Comes Part Two

comforted

“For they will be comforted”.  This is an awesome thing…for someone else to do.  That’s what it can be like to those that are not used to dealing with emotions that are of the downer variety.  I think of a scene from Father of The Bride when Steve Martin is talking about feeling helpless when consoling someone with a hanky.  People don’t want to feel inept on the right words for someone that is distraught.  Will they say the magic word that changes the mood like that?  We wish so the crying can stop and everyone is happy.  Isn’t that what life is about?

Well it’s not.  Sometimes we need to carry someones burden to a good degree and accept the ugliness but we do not have to accept something unnatural.  To comfort the broken hearted is to have compassion which comes from the Latin for “to suffer with”.   But we can’t suffer with them unless we know their story or journey.  And we won’t know that if we do not give them a hearing.

When people think of a hearing they think of stating your grievance in front of a stranger in a black robe.  One rails on the injustice of what they have gone though and demand that the circumstance be made right circumstantially.

But life does not always work that way even when you are getting your hearing by God.  Where we can be instruments of God in love is to listen. Maybe some follow up questions,but really it is about listening.  We may have moments of insecurity of seeing someone sob or want to judge the person if there are things the person did wrong that inflicted consequences on themselves.

But such is not the calling of Christians.  We are all called to be comforters because as followers of Jesus we are to be listening healers.  No, we are not gods but the divine nature we partake of draws us to listen to people’s pain and stand in the gap by praying for them.  To “bind up the broken hearted” is to hear, ideally, the whole story and then see the whole person.

If this divine time of being a counselor works out well, they will see themselves in totality or well along the way as how God created them.  When we are broken we are dis-integrated of all the parts of ourselves.  If we have an encounter that goes beyond faulty instruments like you and I reintegrated without as many insecurities.

But let not the comforter or comforted think that comfort is fixing.  It is all about support in the process.  I have by God’s grace a Masters in Social Work and I will never fix anybody.  I am in a learning curve at work and life to listen and ask questions on how they can be their best and when the timing is right see about that seed of hope that things can get better.

When Mourning Comes–Part One

mourning

Sadness.  Bereavement.  Mourning a loss.  These are all loaded terms that are used in our society and often seem to be terms that people spin in situations to make a loss not seem so bad or even better to have some higher purpose than the agony of the moment.

Even just mourning with a hope to cope with it may seem enough depending on the person.  As a social worker I never work with my clients to deny a factual event that happens in their lives since that would be callous and insane on my part.  However, if there is a sense of ascribing meaning to the event that could make it not dominate their identity then that is a win.  If my clients can reframe how they see events then they could in theory change everything.

But then if you look at Jesus on grief, he is not just another social worker.  He comes on the scene preaching a gospel of the kingdom.  His kingdom has themes of a kingdom that is very communicative and relational.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

First, in centering on the mourning part, one can assume some things:

1-It is not “blessed are those who are bummed and hold it in”.  To mourn in a way that makes you open to being comforted presupposes that you are willing to acknowledge that you need some comforting.  You can hold it in….until you can’t.

2-As we see in the prior verse about being “poor in spirit for they shall inherit the kingdom of God” there needs to be some state of being receptive to a God you know is all powerful, all knowing and, because of what we know through Jesus of Nazareth, all loving.

But can’t God comfort those who are hurting but still holding onto their pride in a nuanced situation?  Yes, He can but He doesn’t.  Otherwise that sense of divine peace would be smothering and coercive.

So when God is doing the comforting, without it blowing our socks off, it is going to look like the integration of our selves so we are authentic and have a sense of meaning for what we were put on this earth for.  “ to bind up the brokenhearted” (Isaiah 61:1) means to see those parts of the self that are scattered and not working together due to pain and defensiveness to be put back together.  And that gets to happen in the sense of knowing He is God and we are not.  The mission of Jesus is forgive sins and restore us to right relationship with Him.

Do we not wonder with all the evil of the world why  God does not work miracles all the time so at least emotional pain does not last so long?  If there were miracles coming moment to moment that were too obvious then the beauty of free will would not be there.  Where would the repentance and the healthy dependence be?

Which brings me to another point with mourning and repentance.  If one is mourning for the consequences of getting caught in their sin, they are not in the realm of the kingdom of Heaven.  Instead they are in the realm of self-pity and plotting on how they can do their sin again but not violate the carnal rule of not getting caught.  But to come to the end of ones self, like the prodigal son story, is to come back to the house of the Father who finds you alive.

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).   If your mourning is halfway in the kingdom for something you have done, remember that no one was created for shame.  We are all created to shine light back to our Creator and everyone that is in our path.  Whether you hurt because of what has been done to you or you have done to yourself, let the Comforter come.